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What They Don’t Tell You About Getting An Abortion

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Submitted anonymously: 

On a subconscious level, I was always aware of the privileges I had while growing up. I knew that as a woman in India, I had more rights than most women ever would. My parents raised me to be independent, free-willed and opinionated. I was free to do as I wished and when I wished. The world was and always will remain my oyster.

With these privileges came a strongly inflated sense of being unbreakable. I had never feared being pregnant because I believed that I would never develop an emotional attachment to my unborn child or foetus.

It was the gagging that started it all. I was on a beautiful holiday with my boyfriend when he rushed me to the hospital. I thought I was going to die of some unknown disease. I kept gagging but could not bring myself to throw up, no matter how hard I tried. My stomach was in knots, a pain so unbearable that I couldn’t breathe. My breasts were swollen beyond belief as though they were infected with puss. I resented every loving touch my boyfriend wished to share with me.

I still never believed I was pregnant because the morning cramps mixed with signs of breast tenderness, mood swings and unexplainable crying were all signs pointing towards an impending period. It wasn’t till I was seven days after the symptoms started that I decided it was time to take the test.

I took one and as the dreaded two lines started forming like flames across my dreams, I erupted with pangs of hot flashes. There they were, those two lines stating my irresponsibility. I took two more just to be sure, and little did I know the nightmare was just beginning.

They never really fully prepare you for an abortion. That carefree, liberated and empowered section of the society that screams at me to be wild and free and alive. It conditions one into thinking one could easily just have an abortion and that it’s no big deal. Well for me – that turned out to be a lie.

My experience of having an abortion was extremely traumatic, to say the least. I scheduled myself for a checkup with the gynaecologist, and she sent me for multiple blood tests and ultrasounds. She wanted to make sure my health was in order before proceeding with the actual abortion.

She explained the options I had, and I opted for the least daunting of the two – the 5 step pills. After all, how traumatic can five pills be right?

Before I could actually get hold of these pills, I underwent an ultrasound. I can’t help but remember that for a person that was never planning on having a baby, seeing my foetus on the big screen was beyond intimidating.

My baby may not have formed yet, but it was still visible, a little black dot attached to my uterus. I still tried not to sweat it because how could I not? I had preached the right to an abortion and pledged never to be emotional about such accidents. I came back to the doctor the next day so she could examine my reports and hand me the pills that would magically get rid of all my problems.

Another thing no one told me about this whole process was that as its name might suggest, morning sickness actually doesn’t just hit you in the morning. It hit me like a big fat school bus all day, every day.

There were days when my head would feel heavy, and light headed, all at the same time, I couldn’t roll over in bed in fear of having my breasts come in contact with anything. Every time I sat up straight, I thought I was going to throw up and all in all, this was proving to be the worst hangover I had ever had.

My nose was highly sensitive, as sharp as a dog’s and the smells that I had previously hated, were now amplified, waging a war on my senses. I craved strawberries the whole day and wouldn’t give it up till I was chomping down on a whole bowl full of them. I put salt on everything including bread and at one point I felt like dipping my fingers into the salt and relishing every lick. For my own sanity, I didn’t give into the last one. To get rid of my agony I decided to watch an episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, and I thought it would make me laugh but boy was I wrong! I felt shattered because I had the misfortune of seeing an episode where Kim was pregnant. She was so happy and ate everything in sight, at that moment I wanted to keep my baby.

The next day I woke up feeling like a zombie. The morning sickness was bringing out the worst in me. I forced myself out of bed and straight to the doctor’s office. She was going to give me the pills, and I wasn’t going to feel like this anymore. Obtaining these pills was such a painful task, though. I was forced to fill out a 6-page form structured by the government that was so outdated it made me sad.

For a government preaching women’s rights and population control, the hypocrisy stared right back at me. Offensive and cruel questions with derogatory terms such as “If the patient is a lunatic, relatives must fill out this section” and “Are you a Muslim, Hindu, Christian…etc,” were proof of the Government’s lack of understanding the situation.

What does religion have to do with abortion? Daunting, to say the least, I was horrified. Not long after I signed a million very offending papers, I was handed my pills. The procedure seemed fairly simple and all I had to do was pop the first pill at 9 am the next day, then wait 48 hours and consume the remaining four pills all at once. How hard could it be right?

After enduring one more day of morning sickness and odd cravings, it was finally time to pop the first magic pill. I didn’t feel any major discomfort after the first pill, just the usual vomiting, weakness, inability to get out of bed but like I said, nothing major. I started this on a Friday so it was evident that I had no weekend plans, which mixed with the hormones made me feel like quite the outcast.

It was on Sunday that I had to consume the forbidden 4, and I sprung out of bed at 9 am to finish the deed. After consuming the four remaining pills, I went right back to bed till I was rudely awoken at 10:30 am with a sensation that felt as though something was tearing into my internal organs. I awoke to such excruciating pain that I negotiated with God. I told him I would owe my soul to him, turn vegetarian, quit smoking and adopt a child later on in life if he would just get me through this.

I sat on the pot for over 2 hours. At last, a golf ball sized chunk of tissues made its way out of me. I felt this mass exiting my body because no one should ever have to pee something that big out. I have had kidney stones before and this was by far the most painful experience I had had. Kidney stones were a joke.

My feet felt numb; I had searing pain that left me momentarily blinded and a stomach ache that tortured me for over 5 hours. When the doctor had convincingly told me that pain would feel like my normal period cramps, she failed to mention that the pain was as If I was on my WORST period ever x 100. I spent 5 hours curled up next to my electric heating pad, which betrayed me and burnt the skin on my stomach but I didn’t mind because it distracted me from wanting to gouge my eyes out. Though I still felt weak and drained from the day’s agony, the pain dramatically reduced by about 9 pm.

As I write this on the morning after, I feel as though I am gaining some semblance to my old self. I only almost threw up once, and the pain is back to what my normal pain threshold can handle. The day after is when you start experiencing normal period cramps but after what I have been through, it’s a cakewalk. So if you’re going to get an abortion, make sure you know what you’re in for.

I was sadly mistaken about the whole experience, and I believe more women need to be better informed about how an abortion actually works and its implications. Even though the pills were noninvasive, I am now told that the surgical option is painless. I am due in for another ultrasound two weeks from the abortion date to make sure I’m still not pregnant but considering I feel like I’m going back to my old self, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Most of all, ask your doctors the tough questions because it’s your body and your right to have all the necessary information in hand.

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Featured image source: Phil Walter/Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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